Javan Lava

Trip Start Nov 02, 2003
Trip End Mar 01, 2005

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, March 19, 2004

c...It took us two days to get to Yogjakarta by bus from northern Bali. We made a small stop however in Bromo to watch the sunrise over the volcano. It was quite an unusual landscape, like the earth must have looked while it was still just a young babe. The early sun rays lighting up the eerie mist and smoke rising from the crater, made quite a spectactular morning, despite waking up at 3.30am and having all sleepiness shaken out of us by the bumpy jeep ride across the lava field.

Our 11 hour journey to Yogjakarta then began by being bundled back into the local bus (30 minutes later than planned) then waiting a further hour for the local ladies to pile their baskets onto the roof rack, then a further two hours to get back to Probolingo to catch our 11am bus. All hope was lost and tensions were rising, as we actually got back to Probolingo at 12pm. Luckily however there was a small mini-bus waiting, with one frustrated Hungarian backpacker and driver having a last cheeky fag, before lighting another once he started the ignition. The smoke and heavy passenger filled public bus journey was only slightly improved, for the nine remaining hours to get to Yogya.

Yogja is a hectic, loud, smelly, heavily polluted and populated place, but is starting to grow on me. Due to our late and tired arrival, we were not in the mood for the over helpful local touts to point us in the direction of their hotel, rather than the one we asked for. We were also not in the mood for Batik designer clothes shopping, and quickened our pace until we were almost running just to get away from them. But walking around with massive rucksacks is not the best way to blend in when being introduced to a new city. We finally found our oasis like hotel down some dark alley, and although it seemed pricey for a damp and mouldy bungalow, we were too tired to care about the lumpy textures of the pillows and sagging matress and decided to stay for the night.

The next morning we decided to check out all the backpacker favourites we had circled in the Lonely Planet, but to our surprise and dismay, most were booked, or not worth the price tag. In the end, we trusted our lives in a local Becak driver (a bicycle with human sized basket on the front) to take us across town and find somewhere else to stay. We eventually found the Yogja Village Inn, a stunning hotel, with the best breakfast, lovely pool and gardens and the most luxurious room we have seen so far. And all for the price of an Aussie hostel. We thought we would be mad to pass on the offer for our possibly last chance of such luxury for a very long time.

A... On the April 5th Indonesia will be holding their first ever free presidential elections, and campaigning is pretty well under way here. It's pretty hard to get away from in fact, with banners and posters for the numerous parties on display everywhere. There are also the party supporters, a group of which has just roared past this Internet café on motorbikes while I'm writing. We've seen them all over the place, often standing on the back of motorbikes, sometimes piled into the back of trucks, or hanging out the doors of buses. They wave flags, wear scarves and shirts for their party, and chant slogans in a way that is more reminiscent of football supporters than party members. Apparently there are party rallies that often involve violent clashes between rival supporters, which allegedly are organized and paid for by the parties themselves. Welcome to Java!

A... We spent our last few days in Lovina on the North coast, which seemed mostly notable for the amount of rain and the number of touts around trying to persuade you to get up at 5am and go on a dolphin-watching trip. We had to take drastic measures to amuse ourselves - even shopping. Eventually we invented a Balinese variant on the old "I went to the shops and I bought..." game. You can the insert any item that someone has tried to sell you since you arrived. A typical game might go something like...

"I went to Bali and I bought a massage, a sarong, a t-shirt (very good price) a pair of sunglasses (even though it was raining at the time), a lift on a motorbike, a huge wooden chess set, washing, a manicure, some marijuana, hair braids, a very phallic woodcarving, a dodgy watch, some non-specific transport and a dolphin watching trip."

While staying in Lovina we took a trip up to lake Bratan, a stunning volcanic lake up in the mountains with a Hindu temple complex on a small island at the edge. The sun was actually shining when we left Lovina, so we went with high hopes of a romantic row across the lake. It took us a few hours to negotiate our way via several public minibuses for the long, bumpy, cramped and winding drive up into the hills, and by the time we arrived the rain made it pretty hard to differentiate between the lake and the road that goes past it. The rain did abate long enough for us to see the temple and work out which cloud the volcano was behind, but we pretty soon gave up and got a minibus back again.

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Where I stayed
Yogja Village Inn
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